Nine people of Musahar community have died due to alleged malnutrition and different diseases in the past one month in three villages of Dudahi block in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh. These deaths, which include a five-year-old girl, have re-exposed the poor state of health, food security and employment among the most vulnerable sections of society.
The Modi government has been making tall claims of ensuring health and hygiene of its countrymen through various schemes and programs, and ministers are claiming that their endeavours are reaching every doorstep. However, people belonging to marginalised communities like the Musahars are still deprived of the basic amenities, falling victims to starvation, malnutrition and untimely deaths.
Following the information of nine deaths in one month, administrative officials visited the village. More than half a dozen Musahars were found to be suffering from fever and stomachache in the village, who were shifted to the government hospital for the treatment.
According to a local Hindi website Gorakhpur Newsline, on August 12, Reema (12), Bipat (28) and Pankaj (17) died in Rampur Patti village of Dudahi block. All three had been suffering from fever and stomachache for a long time. Bipat also had tuberculosis.
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Ironically, when the administration was setting up a health camp in Rampur Patti village on August 20 after the deaths, another 50-year-old Musahar named Ganesh died in Rani Tola of Thadibar village. Earlier, he was taken to the community health centre at Dudahi for first aid but doctors referred him to the district hospital. However, the doctors at the district hospital asked him to be taken to the BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur. After being admitted at BRD for a week, he returned home, where he died on August 20.
Meanwhile, the authorities maintain that diseases claimed the lives of these people, not malnutrition. On August 21, a couple, Badami (28) and Sudarshan (30) died in Sorahwa village of Dudahi block. Reportedly, in August itself, two more people – Kailash (45) and Meera (30) have also died in the same village. In July, 15 year-old Anita’s death was reported from the same village.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sujit Gupta, a journalist based in Kushinagar who has been following the news of the deaths, alleged, "Poverty and malnutrition are the causes behind the mounting death toll of Musahars. No one has been able to get a home under PM Awas Yojana and toilets are in dilapidated conditions. In fact, they have not gotten any single benefit from the Modi government. They cook once in a day and eat the same meal for the next two days, all stale and rotten. On average, out of hundred families, only 25 Musahars are availing Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards (red). Even those who have red card are unable to get the full ration from the distributors, leave those who have white cards."
He added, "As a matter of fact, the administration is hiding the bitter reality of their everyday sufferings saying that the deaths are the results of diseases but perhaps they are forgetting the truth that where there is no food to consume, diseases are common to be found.”
More than 1 lakh Musahar people are living in 55 hamlets across the district. They are forced to live on the outskirts of the village in extremely unhygienic conditions. The majority of Musahars are residing in the two villages of Koilaswa and Doghara. Earlier, NewsClick had carried a ground report on the extreme conditions under which Musahars of Kushinagar are struggling to sustain amid the lack of adequate food and medicines.
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Vibhuti Chauhan, a Communist Party of India (CPI) leader based in Kushinagar. who has been working for Musahars over the past 40 years told NewsClick, "Musahars are dying every year due to starvation and malnutrition but the administration will never accept the reality as it will expose their hollow promises. The main issue is that they do not have land and are forced to live in extremely unhygienic conditions. They do not even receive proper ration to make food and this is the key reason that they are dying due to malnutrition.”